WATCH: Brevard Native, New Orleans Saints Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson Picks Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady
By Space Coast Daily // October 31, 2021
Gardner-Johnson IS 2020 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
#Saints apply pressure and C.J. Gardner-Johnson intercepts the pass!
— NFL (@NFL) October 31, 2021
(NFL.com) – Former Cocoa Tiger and Florida Gator, and current New Orleans Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, picked off a Tom Brady pass during the first half in a match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneer on Sunday afternoon. The Bucs edged the Saints 27-26 in the game at Caesars Superdome.
The interception marked Gardner-Johnson’s first of the season, who also has 11 solo tackles this season.
Gardner-Johnson has been a high-impact player ever since beginning his career on the youth football fields of Brevard County, right up to his selection to the Pro Football Writers Association 2019 All-Rookie Team.
During his senior year at Cocoa High School, the 2015 Space Coast Daily – Friday Night Locker Room Prep Football Player of the Year helped guide the Tigers to a 10-3 record and a spot in the state semifinal game.
Playing in the Tigers defensive secondary, Gardner-Johnson shut down half the field against opposing high school quarterbacks, as he registered 31 solo tackles, 55 total tackles, four sacks and two interceptions in 2015.
Gardner-Johnson was also a force on offense for the then Tigers’ head coach John Wilkinson as he churned out 927 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns, and was frequently seen returning kickoffs for touchdowns.
He was listed as the 84th best high school prospect on ESPN’s Top 300 list, was ranked the No. 42 overall player in the country and No.4 ranked player in the state of Florida by the 247 Sports Recruiting Composite.
The much sought-after Gardner-Johnson decided to take his considerable talents to the University of Florida to play for the Gators.
Always the impact player, Gardner-Johnson led the Gators with eight special teams tackles and totaled 32 tackles, three pass breakups, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and a half tackle-for-loss in his first season in Gainesville.
The 6-foot, 208-pound Gardner-Johnson appeared in every game during his three years at Florida and started 25 times in the Gators secondary.
As a true freshman at Florida, Gardner-Johnson appeared in all 13 games, making starts in the final 3 games of the season. During the 2017 Outback Bowl, Gardner-Johnson had 2 tackles and 2 interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, he was named the MVP of the Outback Bowl.
During his sophomore season at UF, Gardner-Johnson started in all 11 games, totaling 58 tackles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, six tackles-for-loss, and one sack.
Before his junior season, Gardner-Johnson was moved to the Nickleback position and in November 2018, he announced that he would forgo his final year of eligibility and declare his eligibility for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Gardner-Johnson was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round (105th overall) and then played in all 16 games during his rookie season, starting in seven at defensive back for the Saints.
He had 46 tackles, one interception, forced one fumble, four quarterback hits and defended 8 passes.
In a Week 13 game against the Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving Day, Gardner-Johnson recorded his first career interception off a pass thrown by Matt Ryan in the 26–18 win.
In week 16 against the Tennessee Titans, Gardner-Johnson recorded 8 tackles and forced a fumble on wide receiver Kalif Raymond which he recovered during the 38–28 win.
For his outstanding play during the 2019 National Football League season, Gardner-Johnson was selected to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team.
When he declared his availability for the 2019 NFL Draft, Gardner -Johnson remembered those here on the Space Coast that helped him achieve his goals.
Gardner-Johnson recognized his family and friends and thanked former Cocoa Tigers head coach John Wilkinson, his youth football coach Alex Goins and former NFL player and Cocoa Tiger James Folston for their support and encouragement.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME, call 321-323-4460 or 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
CLICK HERE TO SEE MEMBERS OF THE SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME